SINGER-GUITARIST Peter Rowan left Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in 1967 for Boston's hippie cult band Earth Opera (with David Grisman), and then in 1969 formed the folk-rock band Seatrain (with Richard Greene). Since then, as a soloist and with his two younger brothers, Rowan has stuck to bluegrass, cowboy and country music.
His new album, "With The Red Hot Pickers," collects the 10 best tracks from two bluegrass albums he recorded recently in Japan. It celebrates both his traditional training with Monroe and his experimental excursions with Grisman and Greene.
In fact, Greene co-produced this anthology with Rowan and Hiroshi Asada. Every time Rowan's warm, personal voice pauses, Greene's wild, high-pitched fiddle slashes through the song, transforming the traditional high, lonesome wail of bluegrass into a unsettling siren of the modern age. Rowan and Greene are joined by three more all-stars: Skyline's banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka; klezmer mandolin pioneer Andy Statman; and upright bassist Roger Mason.
Rowan sings traditional tunes by George Jones, the Carter Family and Stephen Foster, but he also uses his own stunning bluegrass composition about nuclear apocalypse, "Hiroshima Mon Amour." Rowan's steady, understated vocals hold the center while Greene, Trischka and Statman take off on extravagant tangents.
PETER ROWAN -- "With The Red Hot Pickers" (Sugar Hill, SH-3733); appearing Saturday at the Birchmere.